Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: From Flower Child to Flower Girl, eclectic mix of Broadway at Muhlenberg

It’s Broadway at two ends of the spectrum for Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre (MSMT) in Allentown, with the prim-and-proper classic musical, “My Fair Lady,” and the revolutionary rock musical, “Hair.” Add to that the “Wild” world premiere of a modern circus performance in rounding out MSMT’s 37th summer season of theatrical entertainment. “My Fair Lady” and “Hair” are marking the 50th anniversary of their original Broadway run.

“Hair” kicks off Wednesday through July 2, in Empie Theatre in the Baker Center for the Arts. Director is Jim Peck, Muhlenberg professor of theater arts, who has directed past summer productions of “In the Heights,” “Spamalot,” “Tommy,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” to name some. Peck said “Hair” has never been done at Muhlenberg and with its milestone anniversary, he and Charles Richter, artistic director of MSMT and director of the college’s theater and dance department, both agreed this would be a good year for it. Music director is Ed Bara; choreographer is Samuel Antonio Reyes.

This eclectic mix of summer offerings will not have Equity actors in the casts, Richter said, but instead will feature “homegrown talent”with Muhlenberg alumni Gabe Martinez and Emily Spadaford. Both return to the Muhlenberg stage in “Hair” in the roles of Berger and Crissy, respectively. Martinez appeared as Usnavi and Spadaford as Carla in last summer’s production of “In the Heights.”

Peck said “Hair,” The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical (as originally billed) will emphasize national and political themes.

“‘Hair’ is about the promise of America,” he explained, “and ways in which the nation lives up to this promise. ...there’s a sense of Utopia and dissidence is important.”

As a director, he said the challenge is the story while the music leads the way.

“Hair’s” book and lyrics are by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, with music by Galt MacDermot. The original Broadway production was directed by Tom O’Horgan and was nominated for a Tony in 1969. It received a Grammy Award for Best Score from an Original Cast Show Album.

Peck said he hopes Muhlenberg audiences will leave feeling “buoyant and hopeful and resistant.”

“Hair” is recommended for ages 17 and up, containing sexuality and sexual expression.

Will the Muhlenberg cast shed its clothing as done in the original production in semi-darkness at the end of the first act? Peck couldn’t answer at the time of this interview since rehearsals had not yet begun. But, he said, he would put it out to the members.

His next theater undertaking will be Muhlenberg’s fall production of “Sunday in the Park with George.” 

Charles Richter is resurrecting Lerner and Loewe’s Tony Award-winning “My Fair Lady” at Muhlenberg since it was last performed some 20 years ago. The show runs July 12-30. He called it a show “representative of American musical theater…the pinnacle of the development of the modern musical.”

The cast of “My Fair Lady” includes Jarrod Yuskauskas as Professor Henry Higgins. He appeared as Herbie in Muhlenberg’s “Gypsy,” Horace in “Hello, Dolly!” and Sir Robin in “Spamalot.” Muhlenberg alumna Meredith Doyle will play the role of Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle. She appeared as Miss Cratchitt in “Gypsy” and Bad Idea Bear Girl in “Avenue Q.” Robert Fahringer returns to play Albert Doolittle, a role he performed in Muhlenberg’s original production. JoAnn Wilchek Basist will play Mrs. Higgins.

This time around, Richter said he will shed having massive sets and costumes and focus on the play, itself, and its wonderful libretto. He said he wants audiences to be “enchanted, ravished by the wonderful score.” He chose for the show to be performed in the intimate environment of Baker Theater in Trexler Pavilion which, he said, is well-suited with better ease in scene-shifting. Music director is Ed Bara; choreographer is Karen Dearborn.

In the vein of family entertainment, a world premiere modern circus performance, “Wild,” will be performed June 28-July 29, featuring aerial acrobatics, clowning, spectacle, and a touch of magic. The interactive show was created by the Atlas Circus Company based in New York, with co-founders and Muhlenberg graduates Noah Dach, writer of “Wild,” Cody Johnson, Henry Evans, and Tommy McCarthy, assistant director of “Wild” and also a performer. Dach is part of the team that produced Muhlenberg’s main stage circus productions in the spring of 2015 and 2016.

“Wild” involves a young man who runs away and winds up in the jungle where he meets the resident creatures. Although he’s free and experiences much fun, he finds the longer he stays, the more he longs to be back home and so he decides to return.

Dach said the show will be performed in a “very immersive” jungle setting in Muhlenberg’s black-box Studio Theatre, followed by a free, 45-minute circus-themed activity workshop (advance registration recommended).

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The “Valley Vivaldi” summer series begins Sunday at 7:30 p.m., at Christ Lutheran Church, 1245 W. Hamilton St., Allentown, with chamber ensemble concerts of 17th and 18th century composers including Vivaldi, Bach, and Telemann performed by instrumentalists from the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra. A meet-and-greet with the musicians will follow the performance.

Musicians include flutists Robin Kani and Christine Moulton; solo violinist Rebecca Brown; Sinfonia principal trumpet Lawrence Wright; Mary Ogletree, Simon Maurer, violin; Agnes Maurer, viola; Elizabeth Mendoza, cello; Stephen Groat, bass, and Allan Birney, harpsichord.

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“Val Kilmer Live Presents Cinema Twain” is Monday at 8 p.m., at the Musikfest Café at the ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem, when acclaimed actor and Grammy nominee Val Kilmer delivers an up-close and personal look at one of America’s celebrated authors, Mark Twain. The special screening of Kilmer’s “Cinema Twain” is based on his “Citizen Twain,” a one-man play about Twain.

In “Citizen Twain,” Kilmer transforms himself into the “First American” in a comedic and moving performance both contemporary and reflective. The play, started in 2012, is based on the life of Samuel Clemens and his writings as Mark Twain (“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “The Adventures of Huck Finn”). With satire and wit, he touches on politics, family, his faith and God.

Kilmer starred as Iceman in “Top Gun,” Jim Morrison in “The Doors,” Doc Holliday in “Tombstone,” and the Caped Crusader in “Batman Forever.” He was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Spoken Word Album Category as part of the cast of the album, “The Mark of Zorro.”

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The Pennsylvania Jazz Collective and COTA will present a benefit jazz concert on Sunday at 2 p.m., at Sorrenti Cherry Valley Vineyards, 130 Lower Cherry Valley Road, Saylorsburg. Proceeds will benefit the Jerry Kozic Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Jerry Kozic, cousin to well-known jazz guitarist and PAJAZZ 2013 Artist of the Year, Tom Kozic, was involved in the region’s jazz scene. He wrote jingles and original material for many regional artists and bands and was a member of saxophone legend George Young’s quartet. He and his wife, Linda Goss-Kozic, performed on cruise ships. Kozic was concentrating his musical endeavors on piano music, his original music, and being a solo artist prior to his untimely death at the Ross Township shooting on Aug. 5, 2013.

Guest artists include Alan Gaumer, Adam Niewood, Dan Wilkins, Matt Vashlishan, Robin Bryan, Nancy Coletti, Joe Mixon, Bill Washer and Wayne Maura. Musicians include: Bill Goodwin and Garry Rissmiller, drums; Jon Ballantyne, piano; Tom Kozic, guitar; Ed Hudak, percussion, and Evan Gregor and 2017 PAJAZZ Artist of the Year, Paul Rostock, bassists. The PAJAZZ IDOL youth-winning group also will perform.

The scholarship fund will be used to help jazz student musicians attend regional summer youth jazz camps or study with professionals.

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The newest exhibitions at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in Reading are “Lineage” by BA Harrington and “Voice” by Fumi Amano. Both open Saturday and run through Aug. 27. An Opening Reception will be held Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

“Lineage” is described as “part of a body of work that references a grouping of early New England dowry chests made from the late 17th through the mid-18th centuries.” Harrington’s interest lies in the chests’ relevance to domestic roles, gender boundaries, and family structure.

Amano’s “Voice” involves a live performance during Friday’s reception with a complex glass house she created and will perform inside. She explains that the shape of the house and windows are constructed “in a distorted manner to reflect the misunderstanding between people.”

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The 10th Annual “Blues, Brews & Barbecue” happens Saturday from noon to 10 p.m., in Downtown Allentown, stretching from the 600 to 800 blocks of Hamilton Street.

The free event features free hot air balloon rides, car show at 7th and Walnut streets, Bethlehem soccer kick wall, and fireworks display.

Musical performances include Craig Thatcher & Pete Fluck, Supra Ayers Blues Band, Tavern Tan, The BC Combo, The Peterson Brothers, Albert Castiglia, and the Clarence Spady Band, plus many more, with stages at Hamilton Kitchen, Fegley’s Biergarten, Bell Hall, PPL Plaza, and Queen City BBQ.

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